Falling for the Guy Next Door(9)

By: Claire Robyns

“Perfect.” He gave her a smile as he moved into position behind the tripod that his camera was set up on. As he glued his eye to the lens and started clicking, he spoke to Megan, “Kate was around here the other day, looking for you. When she heard I’d be staying on a while, she asked me to take the headshots for the Summer Beauty Pageant entrants.”

“But you’re a wildlife photographer,” Megan protested, her voice small.

“She didn’t seem to mind,” he murmured, pulling his eye from the lens to adjust the light setting. “If you have a problem with that, you’ll have to take it up with her.”

He heard Harry apologise for the interruption, heard Megan stomp off, but he tuned them out and concentrated on his work. Here, at least, he was in control. Cause and effect was the precise click of a dial. With Megan, he was never totally sure what he was doing and the effect more often than not ended up disastrous.

The Christmas Before Last

The black of night was slowly retreating to the grey haze of a frosty dawn. Jack turned from the window as he pulled his coat on.

“You going out?” Frank, still in his pyjamas and cradling a mug of coffee, came through from the kitchen into the front room.

“I thought I’d get some shots over the valley.” He hitched the camera bag on his shoulder and grabbed a pair of Wellington boots from the rack beside the door. “Did I wake you with my shower? Damn pipes were frozen over.”

Frank shrugged. “Want me to make up a flask of coffee to take with you?”

“I won’t be out long,” he said, shaking his head. “Sunrise is in about half an hour.”

He was halfway out the door, and Frank was still standing there, cradling his coffee and watching. “Everything okay?” Jack asked.

“It’s good to have you here, boy,” Frank grunted. “Now go on, before you miss that sunrise.”

Jack swallowed hard around that and closed the door behind him. His uncle was getting sentimental in his old age.

As he walked down the path and out the gate, it struck him that Frank must be close to eighty. He usually only stopped by Frank’s once or twice a year, but maybe he should make more of an effort in this coming year.

His uncle was getting on, even if he didn’t look it. Frank had farmed a couple of acres north of Penzance up until three years ago and still had the robust health of an outdoor man. When Jack had helped him sell up the farm, the semi-detached house up the hill from Corkscrew Bay had been ideal. Frank had refused to settle in any town and at least here he wasn’t completely isolated. The original couple from next door had retired to Spain last year, but 21b hadn’t stood empty long.

Jack grinned at the fleeting impression that had hooked and stuck to his memory after meeting Megan Lane briefly when he’d come down for a weekend last August. Now there was a neighbour he wouldn’t mind getting all neighbourly with.

Unfortunately, the whole neighbourly thing also put Ms Megan Lane strictly out of bounds. He liked his relationships short and spicy. That philosophy would be shot to ribbons if he dipped into the candy jar next door. That was the kind of grief he could live without.

Pulling his collar up against the bite of late December, he cut through the wooded copse that spread from the house. The sound of the ocean battering the sheer limestone cliff faded as he strolled deeper into the thick forest of pines until he came to a natural viewing ledge that peeped over the leeward slope of Bluff Hill. A verdant valley of evergreen trees and shrubbery fell away sharply and then rose again gently on the other side.

Jack set his camera up on a portable tripod, was attaching the timer chord to keep the exposure open when he heard the unmistakeable whirr of rotating blades. He fell to his stomach and leant out over the long drop, surprised to discover a road ran straight down the middle. His gaze followed the road from where it rounded the bend that hid the town from view and ended in a stately wrought-iron gate. A massive perimeter wall enclosed a castle nestled deep in the valley.

The whirring blades grew louder and a sleek black helicopter came into view, slicing the frozen air as it flew low along the valley and then hovered above the extensive front lawn within the castle walls. Jack scrambled away from the ledge and onto his feet. At the same moment, voices from behind reached him through the trees.

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